The First Test With an Atomic Bomb Created an Unusual Anomaly

Andrei Tapalaga
Air photo showing the crater and surrounding fused regionLos Alamos National Laboratory

The infamous Manhattan project changed the world and was kept a secret by the US government due to its many implications. Those working on the project were always blindfolded upon going to work so they would not know the location. The fewer people knew about it the lower the chances for it to be compromised. 

One very interesting aspect of this project which led to the creation of the atomic and nuclear bombs was the first prototype named “Gadget” which was detonated in July 1945, 77 years ago. The energy produced by the explosion of this atomic bomb was 21 kilotonnes of TNT, more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima which produced 15 kilotonnes of TNT
The Trinity Test fireball, the first atomic bomb, 16 milliseconds after ignitionNew Scientists/ Public Domain

Those who witnessed the first ever explosion of an atomic bomb and its pure devastating power were amazed, but what followed after the explosion was more interesting. The bomb was detonated somewhere in New Mexico, in a place the US Army named “Trinity”. Within this Trinity, there were different things, such as 90 feet transmission tower with copper wires, a road made out of concrete, and a lot of sand. 

The detonation of the prototype accidentally created a new material that fused all of the objects within Trinity. This new material was named trinitite, similar to glass but extremely radioactive. That was the first and the last time someone has created this material due to how radioactive it is, at least within the US. The government has also made the collection of this material within the United States illegal
A piece of Trinitite from the New Mexico testing siteMuseum of Radiation and Radioactivity

At the time scientists did not have the knowledge, nor the technology to make better sense of what exactly happened and how this new material was created. This is a material that is not natural. In 2021 scientific journal had been published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Science were Paul J. Steinhardt explained what happened. Saying that this is actually the oldest known material in the universe as it compares to natural quasicrystals recently found in meteorites.

“The new quasicrystal is the oldest extant anthropogenic quasicrystal known, whose place and moment of origin are known from the historic records of the Trinity test. The thermodynamic/shock conditions that formed it are roughly comparable to those that formed natural quasicrystals recently found in meteorites.” (Quote by Paul J. Steinhardt)

Even with this information, scientists still have an unclear image as to why fusion was produced by a nuclear explosion. Other tests where atomic bombs with similar or even bigger power have been detonated in similar conditions and fusion did not take place. Due to the complexity of this new material, we don’t know what caused the fusion, but it is very interesting to see that we produced something unique, even if by accident. 

Steinhardt also mentions that trinitite may be available on other planets from distant solar systems where the ecosystems of the planets are very similar to the conditions that were created during the explosion of the atomic bomb. Only time and advancements in technology will tell.

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